In Dubai, a Wedding Steeped in Palestinian and Moroccan Culture03/10/2023
Nora Achmaoui made the first move on Khalid Alherani in September 2021 in typical Gen Z fashion: She liked two of his pictures on Instagram after finding his profile on her explore page.
Although they disagree on what exactly happened next — she said he immediately liked her “whole feed,” while he claimed that could not be possible because he was at the gym at the time — they both agree that he liked several of her photos in response.
In Instagram culture, liking several photos in return is the indication that there is mutual interest. So, Mr. Alherani was under the impression that Ms. Achmaoui would make the next move. After waiting for a few minutes, he got impatient. He decided to send her a direct message: “Hi, how are you?”
From then on, they “literally spoke every second,” Mr. Alherani said. “She was telling me about her whole day and each thing she’s doing.”
They instantly felt comfortable with each other. “She started sending me weird things, and I started sending her weird things,” he said. As an example, he mentioned one instance when she sent him a photo of her nose.
“I was like, ‘Why would you send me that?’,” Mr. Alherani said. But he found it charming that she was comfortable being herself.
After talking for four days, they had their first date at Dubai Safari Park on Oct. 1.
Mr. Alherani, 25, and Ms. Achmaoui, 27, both live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is Palestinian; she is Moroccan and from Süsterseel, Germany. She moved to Dubai in November 2020.
On their first date, Mr. Alherani recalled that Ms. Achmaoui wore light blue Nike Air Jordan 1s that were several sizes too large. “I could see her feet going in and out and in and out,” he said. (In defense, she said she had been “dying to get them,” but they were sold out in her size.)
Mr. Alherani was not the only one observing style choices that day, because while Ms. Achmaoui was wearing shoes that were too big, he was wearing clothes that were too small.
“He was wearing a shirt full of colors with neon shoes, and the shirt was maybe two sizes too small,” she said. “I remember thinking that he’s marriage material, but we definitely need to change the style, that’s for sure,” she said, playfully. (His response? “Whatever,” with an eye roll.)
Mr. Alherani picked her up in his car for their first date, and they went to Ms. Achmaoui’s favorite restaurant, Saddle Cafe, for breakfast at 4 p.m. because she forgot to eat that day. Although they had only known each other for four days, he already knew that she had a habit of accidentally skipping meals.
Afterward, at the safari, the two entertained each other with their “silly jokes.” “I saw a giraffe, and I just made a stupid joke: ‘Oh, she looks like you,’” Mr. Alherani said. “And we kept laughing for the whole day, I don’t know why.”
They stayed at the safari until it closed, and then had dinner at Bab Al Mansour, a Moroccan restaurant. Mr. Alherani had a family dinner afterward, but he didn’t want the first date to end, so he ate dinner twice that night.
Ms. Achmaoui said that she called her mother after she got home that night. “I told her I think I found ‘the one,’” she said. Mr. Alherani also called his best friend and told him about how easy their conversations felt on the first date.
“When I sat with her, I really opened up with her,” said Mr. Alherani, who is usually a private person.
They have seen each other every single day since their first date, with the exception of one week in August 2022, when Ms. Achmaoui visited her family in Germany.
During their second date at Sunrise Beach, “they chose this life” of marriage, Mr. Alherani said. As they sat in his car by the ocean, drinking acai smoothies from Saddle Cafe, the same restaurant they stopped by on their first date, he confessed to her that he is not yet financially stable. He felt he should tell her from the get-go, as they were already dreaming of a future together.
“I didn’t want to waste her time,” he said.
“I think this moment was when I fell in love because of his honesty,” she said. “I knew even if he’s not stable, when we would take this path together, we would succeed.”
Ms. Achmaoui’s indifference toward Mr. Alherani’s financial position motivated him to “push hard,” he said. He had graduated earlier that year in March from Near East University, a college in Nicosia, Cyprus, with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He was still figuring out his career and was working with his father for his interior design company, Atwaar Decoration Design, for the time being.
Ms. Achmaoui graduated from DHBW Mosbach, a college in Germany, in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in international business, innovation and techniques.
The next day, they visited Abu Dhabi, which is an hour drive away from Dubai. Although Mr. Alherani was born and raised in Dubai, he had never visited Abu Dhabi before, so Ms. Achmaoui served as his tour guide, showing him sites like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Etihad Towers and the Emirates Palace.
A month after they met, in November 2021, they posted a TikTok video of themselves participating in a trend where they tried to trick each other into looking in a specific direction. At the time, Mr. Alherani “hated social media,” he said. “I remember how much he was fighting me for posting it,” Ms. Achmaoui added. But overnight, the video received 1.5 million views.
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For Ms. Achmaoui, going viral after one post was a “sign” that they should seriously pursue TikTok as a source of income. They posted four TikToks every day on their couple account, and within the first week, they received 40,000 new followers.
“I promised him if he pushed with me for one year, we’re going to have one million followers,” she said. “And within one year we received 1.2 million followers.”
Today, @noraandkhalid has 1.3 million followers on TikTok. There, they post couples content and skits about relationships. Both are currently full-time content creators.
“It really enabled us to get married so soon because otherwise we wouldn’t be financially stable,” she said. Ms. Achmaoui is also an entrepreneurial coach for Sheeo Consulting, a company she started in 2019 that helps women start their own businesses. Mr. Alherani is also a personal trainer in mixed martial arts.
On May 28, 2022, on her birthday, he proposed to her on a vacation in Petra, Jordan, though he could not utter any words when he pulled out the diamond ring. “He was just standing in front of me, kneeling with the ring, but not asking anything,” Ms. Achmaoui said.
The proposal came as a surprise to Ms. Achmaoui because their original plan had been that she would be the one to propose. “I thought he deserved to be asked and to feel as special as he makes me feel every day,” she said. Still, her plan was on.
On Eid al-Adha, July 8, 2022, she proposed to Mr. Alherani in front of his parents and six siblings in his living room, with a white gold and black ceramic ring she purchased for him from Cartier.
“He was so shocked and nervous, and a bit shy, because as Arabs, you usually don’t show those emotions in front of your family,” Ms. Achmaoui said. “He cried, I cried.”
Mr. Alherani was still living with his family in Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai, at this time, and he moved into Ms. Achmaoui’s apartment in the nearby Barsha Heights on the day after their wedding.
On Feb. 22, 2023, the couple were married by Imam Ahmed Maher of Abdullah Mohammad Al Shirawi Mosque at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, which provided the event space.
The couple received sponsorships from Omer Rasool Events, the planner, and Anastasia Panjinskaya, the videographer and photographer. Their wedding outfits were also gifted: Ms. Achmaoui wore dresses made by Amira Lebsatte, Ezra Couture and Alaa Duba. Mr. Alherani wore outfits by Zaid Farouki and Emad Tariq Hussein.
Their wedding was steeped in Moroccan and Palestinian culture. Inez Atili, a Moroccan singer, performed.
Ms. Achmaoui also sang an original song that she wrote, called “Candle lights and KFC.” (KFC is his favorite restaurant.) Although she never sang in front of an audience before, she wanted to surprise him on their wedding day in front of their 120 guests. The song shared personal anecdotes from their love story, including overcoming familial and cultural differences as a Palestinian and Moroccan couple and about the “light feeling” she experiences with him.
“One thing that people always used to tell me is that love is easy, but in my past, love felt like a lot of drama and a lot of heartbreak,” Ms. Achmaoui said. “For the first time, with him, love felt easy.”
On This Day
When Feb. 22, 2023
Where Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Equestrian Entrances Ms. Achmaoui made her bridal entrance on a white horse accompanied with Moroccan folk music by Dakka Marrakchia, and Mr. Alherani entered on a brown horse with Palestinian dabke music. A dance battle ensued, but the couple disagreed on which side outdanced the other. Ms. Achmaoui’s family, in the background during a video interview, shouted that the Moroccans won. “No, no, no! Her community is the Moroccans. If I’m going to ask my community, they’re going to say the Palestinians,” Mr. Alherani said in response.
Food on Wheels Rather than plated or buffet meals, the couple brought in food trucks that served Palestinian food like ouzi (a rice dish) and warak enab (wine leaves) and Moroccan food like couscous and pastilla (chicken pie). For a “modern twist,” they had a frozen yogurt truck and a fruit bar, Ms. Achmaoui said.
All White in the Desert: Ms. Achmaoui wore a takshita, a traditional Moroccan two piece dress, and Mr. Alherani wore a qumbaz, a Palestinian garment. Although it was a challenge to get their guests to abide by the all-white theme, it was worth it for the couple. “Everyone looked like angels in the desert,” Ms. Achmaoui said.
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